The flashy accessories that accompany top designs on fashion runways are well beyond the budgets of many a fashionista, but even the most cash-strapped consumer has one way to copy the looks - rent it.
Companies such as Bag Borrow or Steal and From Bags to Riches are mining a rich market by renting high-end handbags, which may retail for more than $2,000 apiece, to fashion fans.
They can carry a very expensive handbag and keep changing it on a monthly basis for a full year before they would have to come to pay full retail price, said Sam Mangiere, co-founder of From Bags to Riches, based in Forest Lake, Minnesota.
Charging rental fees as low as $15 and as high as $275 a month, the rent-a-bag companies are enjoying ripe demand for accessories, particularly the elusive It bags that celebrities carry and others envy.
And accessories, unlike high-fashion clothes, can be worn by almost anyone, whether they are tall or short, fat or thin, and look nothing like a model.
Consumers like brands, and they like designers and, so to be able to have a range of products from a designer is very appealing to people, said Pat Hambrick, vice president of marketing of Seattle-based Bag Borrow or Steal.
They're something that everyone can have and look great, she added. It's something that women feel really pulls their outfits together. You can have a really simple outfit and a fabulous bag.
Bag Borrow or Steal operates by signing up customers as members who pay a monthly fee and rent bags at a separate price. From Bags to Riches does not require membership.
Both privately held companies say they have thousands of customers and say their bags remain remarkably pristine. Insurance is available at an extra cost.
We've found customers treat the bags as if they were borrowing them from a friend, said Hambrick. They take really good care of them.
Most popular are Chloe and Fendi bags as well as Coach, Louis Vuitton and Gucci, they say.
Mangiere said From Bags to Riches, which started up last year, had expected customers to keep the bags for two weeks but found they tend to keep them about five weeks.
People don't use it for special occasions. They keep them because they want a new bag every month, he said.
At Bag Borrow or Steal, customers tend to keep several bags at once, said Hambrick. Our customer has many bags. They complement the ones they have already purchased.
So popular is the rental concept, she said, that Bag Borrow or Steal has expanded into high-end jewelry.
But not everyone likes the idea. Savania Davies-Keiller, co-founder of the fashion label DDC LAB, said she finds the rental concept hysterical.
I can't imagine walking down the street carrying a bag that's considered the 'must-have' bag,' she said. I don't understand this idea of wanting to carry a bag that everyone else wants to carry.